We all have a certain way we approach different tasks in life. I’ve recently come to question my methods and their origins. Why do I do things the way that I do? I tend to have very particular and specific ways to do almost everything that I do. Most stem from a personal desire for organization and efficiency. For my own self catharsis, and your entertainment, I’ll give a few examples. I’m not much of a shopper, especially when it comes to clothes. I find a certain type that I feel comfortable in, make sure it will satisfy any dress codes mandated by my employer, and then buy an identical set of five of each. Tube socks, white crew undershirts, boxers, slacks, jeans, shorts, etc. I do tend to stray slightly when it comes to t‑shirts or sweaters. However this is simply a tactic to avoid the appearance that I never change clothes. This allows me to get dressed in a matter of seconds rather than hours. A less practical example would be that any time I encounter numbers in life, I tend to stick to a basic hierarchy. When limited, I’ll choose the even number. As the limits decrease, I’ll lean toward a multiple of 5, or an even number that is also a multiple of 5. This comes in handy when trying to decide on a volume for the radio and the like. A numerical volume of 10 is preferred, however if that is too quiet, I’d raise it to 12, then to 15, then to 18, then to 20, etc. When the opportunity presents itself, I tend to work up the hierarchy in order to choose a number based on its being a prime number, or perhaps a certain (preferably even, multiple of 5, or prime) number of steps from zero along a Fibonacci sequence.
I’ve heard it said that when you truly love something, you see it everywhere you look. If that’s true, I must love patterns, and folks who couldn’t poor water out of a boot if the instructions were on the bottom of the heel. I live in a world of pattern. I see everything as pattern. I live my life by pattern. Patterns as simple as the order in which I wash the various parts of my body in the shower, to the more complicated patterns by which I categorize musical notes by numerical value in order to remember the melody of a song and its harmonies. I try my best to notice and record the patterns around me, in hopes that it may someday serve a purpose.
As one who believes the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy, I tend to question the reason for certain patterns. Although this questioning is usually of no real consequence, it does usually give rise to a chuckle. Have you ever noticed that the ridges on a banana match up to the joints of your thumb and finger when held? Or that Evil’s Agents is an anagram for Evangelists? There are times when I encounter a pattern that I find beautiful. Beauty comes in many forms for me. Sometimes it is the simplicity of a certain pattern that steals my attention. Other times it’s the complex combination of multiple patterns working together to make a quite different pattern. More on these later.
I would also have to state that there are also times when I encounter a pattern that stimulates those other feelings that we’ve discussed, namely disappointment, confusion, anger, and fear. Perhaps these negative feelings stem from holding others to the same standards that I hold myself to. I’m beginning to think that I set the bar too high. Perhaps I’m just becoming jaded with age, but it seems that the older I get, the more I find myself surrounded by blatant laziness, ignorance, and helplessness. The part that really stirs up these negative feelings in me, is the all too common willingness to succumb to these various forms of weakness. I can sympathize with someone who doesn’t have the ability to accomplish a task because of some natural handicap. If you don’t have legs, I don’t expect you to bring home any marathon medals. If your mental ability to learn stopped around age 5, I don’t expect any Nobel prizes for groundbreaking work in theoretical physics. However unnatural handicaps, namely ones that are acronym heavy and common sense light, are a whole different story. As someone with more questions than answers about this whole experience called life, I know that I have not ascended beyond the common issues, problems, troubles, or complications.
My 8 year old son came out of his room one morning, shortly after we had adopted 2 new puppies into our family and home, to say, “Sneeeeeeef! Dad, I think the pups pooped somewhere.” To which I replied, “When you find it, clean it up.” Later that morning while taking him to school, I asked him for an update on the status of the dog poop. He was silent for a moment, then stated, “I didn’t find it, so I didn’t clean it up.” The truth is, he didn’t go looking for it, because finding it would then entail cleaning it up. Who wants to clean up someone else’s poop? Any takers? Didn’t think so. He learned quickly that it is easier to “not notice” problems, because being the one to find the problem means that you’ll probably be the one who has to solve it. I’d like to think that this behavior was only common in children, but I’d be grossly diluted. The scary part is, I look around our world and see several adults developing this behavior pattern. No one wants to help clean up the poop of life, so we just pretend we don’t notice the odor. We can’t have it both ways, yet we like to complain about how much our society has changed, for the worse, in the past 50 years. We all need to lose our fear of work. If something doesn’t smell quite right, we need to hunt down the source, and work together to clean it up.
More frightening than disappointing is the fact that so called “holy” institutions seem to lead the way in enabling or even encouraging such behavior. If memory serves, I recall multiple holy texts containing statements and implications that the “holy” are to set the example for the “unholy.” This isn’t limited to morality, it should encompass every part of life. The “holy” should lead in creativity, artistry, innovation, integrity, work ethic, generosity, humility, health, business, entertainment, sports, and education. I can think of a very few examples when this has ever come to fruition. Irony of ironies is that in most cases, the success of such attempts is hindered by the “holy” community. These communities seem to spend more time arguing among themselves than working together to set the standard for the others to live up to. Rather than remaining traditional and cutting ourselves off from the others, or being a conformist and following the others, these communities need to become transformers. Although this sparks an image of electronic equipment or perhaps robots disguised as vehicles, transforming ourselves and the others around us into a people working together to solve the issues at hand seems like a better option. But who am I to dismantle thousands of years worth of religious bickering.
To recapture a previous thought, there are patterns that I enjoy. There is ironically no set pattern to the patterns that I enjoy, other than to say that I enjoy the patterns that are mysterious. The patterns that I don’t adequately understand. The patterns that I don’t know enough about to discuss simply. Patterns that are larger than my ability to discern. I am constantly humbled by such patterns. These mysterious patterns are the root of inspiration. Art, music, philosophy, science, math, all require inspiration. In this way, the mysterious patterns lead us to form our own patterns.
Imagination can sometimes lead to knowledge. I have seemingly random epiphanies at times, often during mundane or monotonous tasks. Sometimes the breakthrough happens during a morning shower, or while mowing the yard. I find that most times, answers are found by adjusting my perspective. Dialing back the microscope, and perhaps exchanging it for a telescope instead. I find beauty in simplicity. This is where I find God. If I were to ask, how to breathe, could you explain it to me? This is something that we all do, yet can’t adequately explain. This concept fascinates me. It is so simple that we all manage to accomplish it with little to no conscious effort, yet so complicated, it has taken several lifetimes to understand the basic process from start to finish. Most would respond that they just do it. That is simplicity. I suspect God would reply similarly if asked how to create everything from nothing. He would respond that He just did it. That is simplicity. I believe that everything is this simple, if you have the right perspective.
I wonder what perspective it would require to explain simply who I am? I can tell you what I’ve done, how I’ve done it, who was there, and when I did it, yet none of these explain who I am. We can discuss my name, my species, my genealogy, my job, my history, my present, my hope for the future, my appearance, my possessions, my beliefs, yet I can not simply tell you who I am. Who I am seems to be an image or idea or concept. If I am merely an idea or image or concept, could I get wet in the word water? Who or what forms this image or idea or concept? Where is this image or idea or concept? You have an image of me, as do I, however our images are not the same. My image of myself is based in part on what you reveal to me of your image of me. Your image of me is based in part on what I reveal to you of my image of myself. However, neither of us can access the image held by the other directly, only indirectly, only in reflection. Perhaps the reason for this limitation is to protect from reaching another more difficult or even damaging limitation. Imagine a video camera, whose lens could directly access the image it was capturing directly. The image would grow into an infinite replication within a replication of the original image until the ever growing image would become too complex for the camera to capture. Perhaps our limited physiology would not be able to function under the strain of this infinite feedback loop of self image, at which point all other experience would become irrelevant at best, or cease altogether. Who am I? Who is asking?